Carol Ann Duffy’s “unconventional lifestyle”, by the Observer
Jess McCabe // 18 May 2008
So, Carol Ann Duffy’s “unconventional lifestyle” impeded her chances of becoming the first female Poet Laureate, according to The Observer.
By “unconventional lifestyle”, they mean she is a lesbian. And no, they weren’t quoting anyone, that’s their description. Yes, I did say Observer not Daily Mail. It actually gets worse. Because, we learn, Duffy’s lifestyle is now considered conventional enough that she might be in for a second chance of getting the gig, as she’s apparently not in a relationship (at least not with anyone high profile!) anymore:
While Armitage was ruled out because of his relative youth, Duffy’s unconventional lifestyle was said to have counted against her….
It was also suggested that Blair, then Prime Minister, had vetoed Duffy because he was concerned that her domestic arrangements would be inappropriate for such a public figure.
Now, as the gift of the position comes around again, things look different for Duffy. Her daughter, Ella, is almost a teenager and her relationship with her fellow Scottish poet, Jackie Kay, has ended. She has built on the success of her 1993 collection, Mean Time, which won both the Whitbread and Forward prizes, with an intense 2005 work, Rapture, which won the TS Eliot prize. Duffy, born in 1955, has also been appointed an OBE and a CBE and is now a regular feature of the GCSE syllabus.
Note: the implication doesn’t seem to be that attitudes have changed, but her relationship status has changed – presumably making her sexuality less visible?! As least to, um, people who’ve not read any of her poetry, and don’t know anything about her?!
(Incidentally, I was studying Duffy’s collected poems for my A Levels at around the time she was up for the Laureate job last time, so it’s not like she wasn’t on the syllabus in 1999.)